Help With Property Management Programs

property management programsMany property managers are frustrated with their software, because it is confusing and difficult to use. Others find it difficult to get assistance with their property management programs.

Some property managers are reluctant to utilize property management programs and software for a variety of these reasons. The two primary reasons a property manager might be reluctant to use such software are cost and a lack of familiarity with technology. The latter resistance will be the focus of this posting. If you are a property manager who is reluctant to use property management software because you’ve never used such a program before, that’s understandable. Perhaps you’re using an older program and don’t want to go through the hassle of learning a new one. You might be not only comfortable with the way you do things now but successful as well. Whatever your aversion to the latest property management programs, it can be beneficial to understand that as the programs have advanced, so has the ease of their use. Here are some of the ways these programs are developed and sold to be as easy to use as possible.

Simple Interface

It is true that the latest property management programs have a more diverse set of capabilities than ever before. This seems intimidating; however, the user interface of the most modern software is easier to navigate than ever before. Generally, the newer the software the easier it is to use. Your old software is probably more difficult to use and less capable than newer versions. Thus, the investment of time required to learn the new programs might be smaller than you think, while the return on investment might be higher than you think.

How-To Guides

As the rise of the internet has made more information available than it ever has been before, the ability to effectively communicate this information has also developed. Businesses who sell property management software include how-to guides with their products that make them easy to learn and use.

Customer Support

A good property management software company will go a step farther than a how-to guide by providing live customer support for those who purchase their products. If you find it difficult to learn things by reading manuals, having an expert walk you through your issue can be an effective alternative.

How The Internet Has Affected Property Management

property management chartWhile the real estate market is traditionally slow to change, it is now embracing the Internet. Here are some thoughts on how the Internet has affected property management.

Nearly every profession has been affected by the rapid pace of technological innovation. Technology has created entirely new fields, eliminated some fields and dramatically altered others. One profession that you might expect to be relatively insulated from the intrusion of technology is property management. After all, property management will always involve the management of a physical property. While it is true that property management will always involve dealing with people and the places they live, and while that implies the use of a skill-set that is to some degree independent of technology, the field of property management has certainly been affected by technology and the internet. Here are some of the ways the field of property rental management has changed over the years.

Property Leads

For those looking to break into the field of real estate or property management by acquiring an initial property or by expanding their current portfolio, the process of locating a property has been made more efficient by the internet. While many property managers will tell you that there is no replacement for scouting out properties in person, there is no doubt that the internet is now utilized by many to find properties. Online search engines allow property managers to search for properties and filter their search by variables related to size, price and location.

Property Management Software

The process of managing property has also been affected by technology; specifically, many property managers now use property management software to assist them with the many tasks involved in managing their tenants and properties. The software allows things like calculating payments, collecting payments and paying bills to be done automatically. Previously, these tasks would have taken up a considerable amount of time for a property manager. The software frees them up to focus on other areas of their business.

 

Tenant Management Software Issues

tenant management software issuesMany property managers invest in tenant management software. If you already use such software then you are well aware of the benefits in efficiency that it can provide. If you have made the decision to investigate purchasing using the software for the first time, it can be helpful to understand some of the issues other property managers have had with the software. This might seem counter intuitive; however, researching the issues others have had will make it possible to make an informed purchasing decision that mitigates or eliminates these possible issues. Here is a look at some of the more common complaints.

Number Of Units

Certain tenant and property management software limits the number of tenants and properties that it holds. This can be an issue for property managers who work with hundreds of tenants at a time. One solution is to buy more software; however, some software companies offer upgraded versions of their software designed for property managers who manage large numbers of units and tenants. This is something to investigate before buying.

Affordability

As with any product, the cost of software is going to be an issue for some people. Property managers interested in purchasing software should keep in mind that there are many affordable property management software options that perform essentially the same functions as higher priced software.

Connectivity

Some tenant management software  is offered as a basic version with the option of purchasing additional features that enhance the capability of the basic software. To avoid confusion about what you are buying, it can be a good idea to talk directly with the company selling the software to ensure that the software you’re purchasing will be able to perform the functions you need it to. Many property managers need their software to be able to connect with other apps, documents and software like bank accounts and IRS documents. All of this is more than possible, just talk through your specific situation with a software provider ahead of time.

Property Management Software Developments

Property Management Software Developments As computers, tablets, and phones change rapidly, there are also a lot of property management software developments

Not only does modern technology produce more innovations at a more rapid pace than ever before, it also produces improvements to these innovations at an even more rapid pace. For example, it was only within the last decade that smart phones became a crucial part of our lives. While it may be awhile before something replaces the smart phone as it basically exists today, there is a new incarnation of the smart phone every few years. This rapid development also occurs in the software sector, and property management software is no exception. While property managers, landlords and tenants have only used property management software on a widespread basis for a decade or so, software developments occur frequently. What are the specific areas of this software that are being upgraded? Here is a look at a few areas of focus for property management software innovators.

Easier To Use

Of course, any technological innovator is going to strive to make their technology easier to use. Property management software developers have succeeded in making their software easier to use for both tenants and landlords. The most recent property management software is more user-friendly than ever before. For example, it allows rent payments to be scheduled transferred automatically from bank account to bank account. This is an obvious improvement over the old-fashioned method of hand-writing and mailing checks, but also an improvement over previous incarnations of software that required a tenant to enter credit card information each time they needed to make a payment.

More Options

Another way tech innovators seek to improve their products is by adding new features and options. This is also true of property management software developers. In recent years, for example, software has developed to the point where managers can run automatic tenant screenings via partnerships with credit reporting companies. Because these software companies and developers are working directly with experienced property managers, they are continually finding new ways to make their businesses more efficient.

Benefits Of Property Management Software

Benefits of Property Management SoftwareThere are still a lot of people using spreadsheets to manage their property. Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of property management software to your bottom line.

The benefits of using the internet to find an apartment are obvious. It is much more efficient to use various kinds of social media sites and rental apps to find the perfect rental unit for your situation. The internet makes things easier not just for the renter, but for the landlord as well. After all, for every tenant finding it difficult to locate the perfect place there is probably a landlord finding it difficult to locate the perfect tenant. The internet has made it much easier for both parties to find the perfect match. Once the process of finding an apartment is over, there is still work to be done to maintain a quality rental situation. There is the process of paying rent and resolving any issues that arise related to payments, repairs and other common rental situations. This process, the relationship between a tenant and landlord after the rental agreement has been signed, has also been improved by the internet. Tenant software and property management software compatible with the internet have made things much easier for tenants and landlords to work together in a number of ways. Here is a look at a few benefits of property management software.

Paying Rent

Tenant software allows property managers and landlords to collect rent from tenants automatically. This is obviously a benefit for them, but many tenants find it much less stressful as well. Instead of writing a check and sending it to their landlord each pay period—a process many younger people renting for the first time have never even done before—new software allows these tenants to have their rent payments transferred automatically from their bank accounts to their property managers.

Work Orders

Because the software is compatible with the internet, it allows data to be quickly tracked, stored, sent to and utilized by property managers. This is beneficial for tenants in a number of ways, including an easier work order process. Tenants are now able to fill out and send electronic work orders, which can be automatically sorted and prioritized. Electronic work orders mean tenants have their maintenance issues resolved quickly.

How The Internet Has Affected Renting Apartments

Renting Apartments with Tenant File

Renting Apartments in the Internet Era

The internet has affected nearly all of us in both our personal and professional lives. Some of these areas get more attention than others. Everyone acknowledges, for example, that the internet has dramatically affected the way we shop, the way we bank and the way we communicate. Another area of our life that has certainly been altered by the internet, though perhaps it receives less attention than the other areas previously mentioned, is when it comes time to rent an apartment. The internet has changed the process of renting an apartment both personally for those who rent and professionally for landlords and property managers. Here is a quick look at the brave new world of apartment hunting.

Tenants

More than ever, tenants are using rental apps to hunt for and procure the perfect apartment. A process that used to take many weeks of circling ads in newspapers and calling properties and landlords to check availability is now whittled down to a quick search on a rental app. These rental apps allow apartment hunters to filter by price range, location and many other factors, making the entire process more efficient.

Landlords

Landlords have also been the beneficiaries of technology’s incursion into the apartment rental process. Many tech-savvy landlords are taking advantage of apartment management software to manage their properties and tenants. This software allows landlords and property managers to both store data and then communicate the data via email to current and prospective tenants. This property management software has never been easier to use. Among the features that are common to these software packages are full email systems, work order systems, tenant files, monthly checklists, built in backup features, point and click reports and word processing options. This software also allows landlords and tenants to send money from bank account to bank account, making the payment process easier for both parties.

Massive Cyber Attack – Are Property Management Companies at Risk?

Property Management Company Post Cyber AttackI told you so. I’ve been warning about this for a good while now, and this is only the beginning.  In particular, if you are using web-based property management software, you should think about what you are doing. You are putting your own security, your tenants, and your property owners at risk, and probably paying a hefty monthly sum to do it.

I’m talking about the huge cyber attack that came in three waves on Friday.  If you were not directly affected, it was probably (1) because the hackers didn’t bother with smaller websites or (2) because it wasn’t your turn yet.  Here are some of the ones it did affect:

Airbnb
Etsy
Spotify
Twitter
The New York Times
The Financial Times
CNBC.com
Amazon
Netflix
Github

Ladies and gentlemen, these sites are no pushover sites for hackers (or are they?). Supposedly these sites are some of the best secured sites in the world, and hackers managed to get to them all at once. If these sites are vulnerable, how secure do you think your property management software website is? Most of them weren’t even around 5 years ago, and I would venture that none of them have anywhere ‘close’ to the level of cyber security protection of the sites that got invaded.

In a recent NBCNews.com post I saw the comment for consumers to “think carefully about what and when they connect devices to a cloud or even to the internet in general.” In a previous blog, I speculated on a scenario specifically for property managers called “A Day in the Life of a Property Manager Post Cyber Attack”. It is almost scary how real that seems now.

My experience is in property management and I admit it is in my financial interest for people to purchase desktop software. But the reason we have continued to offer on-premise rental property software is because there is a large market of landlords and managers that don’t want to risk their business and their client base. Plus, the monthly fees for web-based software companies are never ending, and will wind up costing a fortune in the long run.

This year, on the Buildium blog (a web-based competitor) it was stated, “Is your company at risk? Basically: yes. Every landlord, property manager, or real estate professional has access to (and stores) sensitive, confidential, personally-identifiable information on tenants and employees.”

And who is vulnerable? Basically everyone, but consider this information from the same blog “Businesses with fewer than 250 employees account for somewhere between 20-30% of all cyber attacks.”

And how easy it to recover from an attack? Read on,60 percent of small businesses close their doors within months of a successful cyber attack.”

I LOVE technology so don’t get me wrong! We always are looking for new ways to innovate and provide our customers with the best experience possible. But that can be done without storing your valuable data on a remote server that can be attacked at any time. And when that happens, you might suddenly find yourself in an office with no access to your tenants, your owners, your vendors, your accounting, and your customers. And I ask, is that worth the risk?

Is Free Tech Support a Thing of the Past?

Tenant File Tech SupportWe hear from our customers how they have been disappointed in many of the web-based products and the lack of support they provide. Many of them migrate back to the Tenant File after trying something else. Call it old fashioned, but we still favor the safety and security of a desktop based program, and the convenience of good customer technical support.

At Tenant File, we hope that free tech support is not a thing of the past. We have been one of the few software companies that have managed to keep it free. Our industry leading web support has always been free for all customers, even if you did not purchase the previous update. We have a dedicated team of knowledgeable support technicians which monitor incoming ‘tickets’ (web requests) throughout each work day. Each technician has a massive computerized knowledge base to draw from, and each ticket is answered personally. We answer all tickets by the end of the day with few exceptions. (Sometimes we get calls that a ticket wasn’t responded to, and nearly always it can be found in the customer’s junk or spam box, so be sure to mark ‘support@tenantfile.com’ as a ‘safe sender’).

But the Tenant File support goes way beyond that … our first-time customers get a full two months of phone support, and even current customers enjoy a month of phone support in case they have any questions about the update. Phone support is limited to ½ a day (hours 10:00am to 2:00pm CST) and limited to 10 minutes per call, since we are supporting over 5,000 customers and sometimes it gets really busy. We don’t ‘sub’ out our support to foreign countries, so you’ll always get a knowledgeable Tenant File expert. And if the lines happen to be busy when you call during phone support hours, just leave a message and we will call you back as soon as a support person gets available.

Even after the free phone support period has expired, Tenant File still offers paid support in 15 or 30 minute segments. The pricing is very reasonable, and the 30 minute segment can include the ability for the Tenant File technician to connect remotely to the user’s computer to see or actually operate the program. This paid service can also be used if the customer wants us to install the program, move the Tenant File program to another computer, or even close out the year for them. This will save quite a bit over hiring an outside computer technician to come and do the work in person.

Tenant File Phone Support

In addition to the web and phone support, Tenant File includes a full User’s Guide in the ‘Help’ menu of each Tenant File installation, as well as a ‘Quick Start’ guide. The User’s Guide is comprehensive and searchable, so just about any question can be answered with a quick search (user Ctrl-F).  The guide includes screen shots, illustrations, samples, and step-by-step instructions on most tasks.

Also, at the Tenant File website, you can find helpful videos that take you through the entire program. We are busy adding new ones, and take recommendations from our customers. You can also find videos on YouTube if you search for ‘Tenant File’.

Our customers are very important to us, and we try very hard to impress with our service. Tenant File is one of the few property management software programs that charge a one-time fee for the software, eliminating the never-ending monthly payments that can hook the customer into an ever increasing financial nightmare. Then, when the Internet is down and you are left at a standstill, you have no recourse (other than moving to the Tenant File!).

To our current Tenant File customers, thank you and please know that we are always trying to help you become successful and run your business the most efficient way possible. We really appreciate your business!

The Tenant File Support Staff

tenant file

Rental Maintenance Tips for Landlords

TenantFile.com Roof MaintenanceJust like buying a new car, you are excited at the possibilities and rewards that you will get with ownership.  Unfortunately, just like a new car, someday you’ll have to pay for maintenance and upkeep – it is simply a part of managing property, but there are many things you can do to prepare. Try these rental maintenance ideas and you’ll find it much easier.

Start your maintenance fund now.  A  good start would be to save enough money for major roof repairs. Hopefully, you won’t need it for that, but you’ll need it for other repairs anyway.  You might need to replace a major appliance or have trees that need to be removed for safety purposes.

You should do a monthly inspection of your rental property. Go through the entire house inside and outside and take detailed notes of damage that you need to repair, or damage that the tenant might be responsible for.

Remember that anything you do to improve the property will help the resale value later, so don’t put off repairs.  They’ll get more expensive later on, and you might avert a major catastrophe.

The repairs and maintenance costs for your rental property are tax deductible, so be sure to keep good records. If you have major expenses, you might be able to depreciate those costs over several years. We suggest that you have a software program that can log your work orders, expenses, and then export to your accountant at the end of the year.

Your relationship with your tenant is very important in maintaining your property. Tenants are often willing to help with maintenance or repairs to keep their home looking nice and maybe save some on the rent, so work with them on providing materials in exchange for repairs.

Lastly, don’t think you can do it all by yourself. Use an expert to evaluate the property, looking for slab cracks, termites, bad wiring and other potentially disastrous problems. If you are good with tools you can realize substantial savings, but if you need training, you can take advantage of free clinics at the local Home Depot or Lowe’s. In these job specific lessons, you can learn to repair door frames, install a new toilet and replace the flooring in the kitchen.

We hope you have a property that requires little maintenance and few repairs, but that is probably pie in the sky.  However, if you do your prepare ahead of time,  you’ll save money and have a sense of pride and accomplishment in your rental property.

Comparing 30-Year and 15-Year Mortgages

TenantFile.com House Image
You have found the perfect house and now it is time to obtain financing. There are many choices when it comes to financing so it is always wise to understand the pros and cons of a 30-year mortgage versus a 15-year mortgage.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a 30-Year Mortgage

A 30-year mortgage allows the mortgagor to keep their payments low. A borrower’s financial situation can change at any time. Keeping payments low will make it easier for the borrower to afford their mortgage payment even if their financial situation changes.

Another advantage to a 30-year mortgage is the ability to save money. Because the payments are low, borrowers can pay off other debts, make home improvements and put money in savings for unexpected expenditures.

The main disadvantage of a 30-year loan is that the borrower will pay more interest over the lifetime of a loan. When the payment is calculated, it will include interest that is paid monthly. This monthly interest will add up over the lifetime of a loan, costing the borrower more money over the life of the loan.

Another disadvantage of to a 30-year loan is a higher interest rate. Generally, the longer the term of the mortgage, the higher the APR. This means that the borrower will end up paying more in interest each month.

Finally, 30-year loans may not be the optimum choice for those who have children who will be starting college over the life of the loan or for people who plan to retire before the loan will be paid off.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a 15-Year Mortgage

The main advantage of a 15-year loan is the borrower can pay off the mortgage in half the time of a traditional 30-year mortgage. This is especially advantageous to borrowers who will be retiring soon or those with children who will be attending college soon.

The borrower will pay thousands of dollars less on a 15-year loan. In some instances, this can mean tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of the loan when compared to a 30-year loan.

The interest rate is generally lower on a shorter term loan. For example, the current interest rate, as of 2016 (http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/current-interest-rates.aspx), on a 15-year fixed rate is 2.89 percent while the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is 3.63 percent. That is almost three-quarters of a percent lower, which can save a lot of money over the lifetime of a loan.

One of the disadvantages of a 15-year mortgage is a higher monthly payment. This can be an issue if the mortgagor’s financial situation changes. If the mortgagor loses his/her job, it can be more difficult to pay the mortgage payments.

Finally, because the amount of the mortgage is calculated on the borrower’s debt to income ratio, the amount of the loan that he or she qualifies for may be reduced. This can affect the quality of a home that the person will qualify for.

There are many things to consider when choosing between a 15-year mortgage and a 30-year mortgage. Many people think that the amount of the payments on a 15-year loan will be twice the amount of a 30-year loan. This is not true. If a borrower took out a 30-year mortgage for $200,000 with an interest rate of 4 percent, the payment would be $954.83. The payment amount on a 15-year mortgage with the same interest rate would be $1,479.38.

When deciding which mortgage is best, borrowers should consider their current financial situation as well as their long-term financial goals. Borrowers who prefer to minimize their payment and maximize their loan amount should opt for a 30-year mortgage. Those who wish to pay their mortgage off quickly and save on interest should opt for a 15-year mortgage.


Jeremy Johnson is a real estate enthusiast and has written content for dozens of real estate and related sites around the world. RealEstateCompanies.info is a side project he maintains because of his interest in real estate.

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